Of all the infamous outlaws of the Old West, none has quite the notoriety of “Billy the Kid.”
by Robert Walsh
John Wesley Hardin. Jesse James. Cole Younger. “Curly” Bill Brocius. Gunslingers, killers, thieves, icons of the Wild West. Of all the infamous outlaws of the Old West, none has quite the notoriety of “Billy the Kid.” Questionably accused of killing 21 men (one for each year of his short, violent life), Billy is as much a Wild West icon as Wyatt Earp or “Wild Bill” Hickok in spite of being firmly on the other side of the law. Ask people to name the first outlaw that springs to mind and Billy is often their first choice even now. Well over a century after his controversial shooting by buffalo hunter-turned-lawman Pat Garrett and, in spite of being a New Yorker, he’s still marketed to the tourists as New Mexico’s most infamous son.
Like so many Old West outlaws, Billy’s public image is a constant blurring of fact and fiction. The man and the myth so intertwined as to be almost indistinguishable. To start with, nobody has ever provided his accurate date of birth, we don’t know who his biological father really was, there’s no accurate body count of his victims and stripping fact from fiction is difficult to say the least. We don’t even know for certain what his real name was.